A lifeguard is a rescuer who supervises the safety and rescue of swimmers, surfers, and other water sports participants such as in a swimming pool, water park, beach or river. Lifeguards are strong swimmers and trained in CPR/first aid, certified in water rescue using a variety of aids and equipment depending on requirements of their particular venue. (1)
As I think about the call to ministry, I think about the roles and responsibilities of the lifeguard. As ministers we are called to preserve life – spiritual life. Consider the following comparisons:
A lifeguard typically sits on a high chair, which places them in an optimum position to view the people under their stewardship and assess potential hazards. Their improved vantage point allows them to see those drowning, and evaluate whether the person is a passive drowning victim or an active drowning victim, a distressed swimmer or a normal swimmer. Their intervention will differ based on the state of the individual. Similarly, as ministers we must understand the importance of being seated in high places.
To effectively minister Christ to those in need of salvation and those weak in faith we must be able to see their areas of spiritual deficiencies. We gain this kind of vision from spending time in the presence of God and in the word of God. Time spent with God reconfigures our perspectives and gives us a new normal. As we understand the perfection and wholeness God desires for us all to have, we become burdened by the imperfections and brokenness we see around us. Our vision is groomed as we begin to see how God sees and see just how far removed we are from His standards.Vision is a requirement for men and women called as ministers of God, for “without vision the people cast off restraint and perish” (Proverbs 29:18).
Not every swimmer is a lifeguard. What sets a lifeguard apart from a typical swimmer is training. Lifeguards receive comprehensive training for their role in saving lives. Some of the various out-of-water skills taught are Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), First Aid and Emergency Oxygen Administration (1). Some of the various in-water skills taught are:
- Active-Victim Rescue – A simple rescue that moves an actively drowning victim to a safer place.
- Passive-Victim Rescue – Saving and removing a victim who is passive (or not moving) in the water; there are variations for both shallow and deep water
- Spinal Rescue – A rescue that assumes a victim has a head, neck, or spinal injury and uses more appropriate measures to ensure that no extra movement creates further harm to the victim; there are variations for both shallow and deep water. (1)
An untrained person jumping into a body of water to save a drowning victim can sometimes do more harm than good. Drowning victims, especially adults, can be dangerous. Someone who is panicking will instinctively clutch at anything and use it pull themselves up. This means pushing their rescuer down, which is easy to do if the rescuer is tired, or if they’ve pinned their rescuer’s arms (2). Lifeguards are specifically trained in order to mitigate this problem. As ministers, we must not forsake our need to be continually discipled and mentored. God cares for His people, and delivers a strong warning to not use our influence to cause another to sin (Matthew 18:6). We can cause more harm than good in the lives around us when we depart from training. We can begin to teach unsound doctrine and steer people’s hearts away from God.
- Are you submitted to training?
- Are you aware of the influence you have in the lives of the people around you?
- Are you taking the necessary steps to hone your spiritual gifts and graces?
Lifeguards typically work in teams, although in some cases they may work alone. Lifeguards understand the importance of teamwork. What if a lifeguard spots multiple people drowning? A lifeguard must signal to alert his team of the danger and work well with them to preserve life. A lifeguard must learn the importance of communication, accountability and sacrifice in order to best serve the team they are in.
- Communication: Communication is so much more than mere speech. It is the ability to convey a picture intentionally and accurately so that the recipient sees what the sender desired. Communication is integral to our teamwork as ministers. We must be plugged into functioning communities that support us and cover us. We must learn to correctly communicate our problems, hurts, fears and struggles so that our team are aware of our areas of strengths and weaknesses in order to better cover us.
- Accountability: Accountability happens when we willingly position ourselves so that our community can ask probing questions; here, they are given the opportunity to advise, instruct and correct. This is vital for a minister. Who are you accountable to? Who can pull you up if you deviate from sound doctrine? Who do you share openly with, with assurance of truth and without fear of judgement?
- Sacrifice: Sacrifice is our ability to put aside our personal agenda for a greater agenda. Being sacrificial is humbling. This heart disposition is one that God loves. It’s not about us, it’s all about Him. Individually we don’t constitute the body of Christ, but collectively we do.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental deaths in children under the age of 15. Children can drown in as little as an inch or two of water in a kiddie pool, bathtub, or even a cleaning bucket or cooler. But about half of cases involve swimming pools (3). The statistic is startling, but the truth is that children are more predisposed to drowning than adults. Isn’t this true spiritually also? Babes in the faith require much help and assistance whilst learning how to swim upstream against the societal currents of compromise, regression and spiritual indifference.
We must take our roles as spiritual lifeguards seriously, we must gain vision through the word of God, we must undergo necessary training, we must not operate alone and we must reproduce.
John C. Maxwell said, “You teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are”. An important assignment that we have as ministers is to reproduce. We are called to teach babes how to swim and decrease their susceptibility to drowning. We are called to intentionally open up our lives to those around us, so they can be directly impacted by the truth that we live. Remember, it is not our preaching that changes people; it is the power of Christ revealed through our lives that transforms.
Remember to preserve life, and life-guard.
Ify Alexis Lee